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Eye On Boise

Labrador says he doesn’t want to be an NRCC ‘Young Gun’

GOP congressional candidate Raul Labrador says he's opted out of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" candidate recruitment and training program, though he didn't say why; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner, who writes that Labrador's move is a sign he's "further breaking ranks with the GOP mainstream."

Labrador opts out of NRCC candidate program
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. House hopeful Raul Labrador says he won't join the National Republican Congressional Committee's candidate recruitment and training program, further breaking ranks with the GOP mainstream.

Labrador's campaign did not give his reason for opting out of the "Young Guns" program, which recognizes promising Republican candidates and coaches them through their campaigns, providing assistance. A candidate's participation is also a sign of national GOP interest in their respective district.

Labrador's goals are the same as those set for candidates in the NRCC program but achieving "Young Gun" status has never been a priority, said campaign coordinator China Gum.

As recently as July 1, Gum said the campaign expected Labrador would end up in the program. Gum now says she misspoke.

"We never set out to be in the program," she told The Associated Press on Monday.

Candidates in the program work with the NRCC to set benchmarks in several areas, such as fundraising. The program is open to all candidates, who can earn three different levels of distinction, with Young Guns being the highest.

Of the 123 candidates in the program, 50 are "On-the-Radar," 34 are "Contenders" and 39 hold "Young Guns" status.

The NRCC talked to Labrador about the program before the Idaho primary and he opted out of the process earlier this summer, said NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos. He did not give a reason, she said.

Labrador's opponent in the May primary, decorated Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward, was among the program's first recruits. Ward lost the primary amid allegations of plagiarism on the campaign trail.

Labrador is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick for Idaho's 1st Congressional District seat in November and his decision to not join the NRCC program is not the first time he has demonstrated a willingness to buck his own party.

Last year, Labrador was among the most vocal opponents of Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's plan to raise gas taxes to fund highway repairs. During his two terms in the Idaho Legislature, he also voted against a Republican-backed property tax break for a French company seeking to build a uranium enrichment plant in Idaho. The measure passed.

During his campaign for Congress, Labrador has dismissed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's endorsement of Minnick, saying the organization was looking out for its own political interests and only trying to seem bipartisan by endorsing a Democrat, blasting the group for what he termed its "big government tilt."

But the chamber represents more than 3 million businesses nationwide and traditionally supports many Republican candidates, including members of Idaho's delegation: U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

While Labrador spent some time in Washington, D.C., after the primary trying to win over some of the national Republicans who had backed Ward, his list of donors during the most recent fundraising quarter did not include any money from high-profile GOP leaders who are writing checks to candidates in other competitive races nationwide.

Labrador reported about $68,700 in cash on hand, in his July 15 filing with the Federal Election Commission, while Minnick had more than $1.1 million and holds a 16 to 1 cash advantage.

When asked about the lack of financial support at the national level, Labrador has said he expects to drum up support in Washington, D.C. late this month. Crapo, Risch and Simpson are scheduled to co-host a fundraising breakfast for Labrador in the nation's capital on Thursday.

"I deeply appreciate the help and encouragement from these gentlemen," Labrador said in statement. "It will be a real honor to join them in the battle to defend Idaho values in Washington."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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